New Study Highlights Link of Repeat Brain Injury and Suicide Risk

Mike O'Brien

New research into soldiers who were deployed in Iraq shows a direct link between the number of brain injuries an individual has suffered and thoughts of suicide.

The research, from the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah, suggests that multiple brain injuries are linked to higher suicide risk.

According to the study, 21.7 percent of soldiers who had experienced more than one brain injury reported thoughts about or preoccupation with suicide.

For soldiers with one brain injury, 6.9 percent reported having suicidal thoughts. The figure was zero percent for those with no brain injuries.

The research team discovered that multiple brain injuries also were linked to a major increase in other psychological symptoms that are presently associated with a single brain injury, such as depression, PTSD and concussive symptoms.

Lead author of the report Craig J. Bryan, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Utah, the correlation between brain injury and resulting psychological symptoms is not new, but understanding that repeat brain injuries raise soldiers’ suicide risk is important information for caring for veterans over the long-term, especially when they are suffering emotional trauma in their lives.

Traumatic brain injury is a major concern for soldiers because of the number of concussive injuries because of explosions and other combat-related incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among U.S. military personnel, and the rate has risen steadily in the last decade.

The participants in the survey included 161 military personnel referred for evaluation and treatment of suspected head injury at a military hospital's TBI clinic in Iraq.

Brain injuries and military healthcare will be discussed at IDGA’s DoD/VA Healthcare 2013 event next week. For more details, go to